The NL West hasn’t gone the way most of the “experts” thought it would. The team leading the division, the San Diego Padres, was expected to be the bottom feeder, while the predicted leader, the Los Angeles Dodgers, sits in third place seven games back.

That sets up for a showdown in the bay area this coming weekend between the first place San Diego Padres and the second place San Francisco Giants who are just two and a half games back. The two teams have met eight times this season with the Padres coming out victorious in seven of those games.

Giants’ right-hander Jonathan Sanchez has already thrown down the gauntlet in a recent comment to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle saying, “We’re going to play San Diego, and we’re going to beat them three times. If we get to first place, we’re not going to look back.”

The only problem with the comment from Sanchez was the fact that he was confident in the first part then questionable in the second part. First, it was “we’re going to beat San Diego,” but then said “if we get to first place.” Why not go all the way and say “when we get to first place?”

When Shea asked Sanchez about the Giants losing seven of eight to the Padres so far this year Sanchez responded, “That was a long time ago. Doesn’t matter. We’ve got a better team now.” While he wasn’t quite as colorful as Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips calling the St. Louis Cardinals “little b******,” it still gives the weekend series a different feel than early on in the year.


Tale of the tape:


San Diego Padres – 3.26 ERA

San Francisco Giants – 3.44 ERA

Analysis: The San Diego Padres have been towards the top of the NL West all season long. Much to the chagrin of a lot of “experts” who picked them to finish last. The biggest reason for their success is their pitching staff. Not only their starters but also the guys out of the bullpen.

Adding Jon Garland, a veteran that knows what it takes to get to the World Series, was a good off season acquisition, but adding a young and talented right-hander in Mat Latos behind him makes for a solid one-two punch in the rotation. Not only have those two guys been getting it done but guys like left-hander Clayton Richard, right-hander Kevin Correia, and young left-hander Wade LeBlanc have stepped up at the right time to provide solid outings.

As for the Giants, they also boast one of the best rotations in baseball with guys like Tim Linecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez, not to mention Barry Zito, all of which have ERA’s below 3.60 with Matt Cain leading the way at 3.06.

The problem this team has had in years passed was the failure of their bullpen to hold a late inning lead. They seemed to have fixed that with guys like Brian Wilson (2.19), Sergio Romo (2.18), Javier Lopez (2.51), and Santiago Casilla (2.32). It give the starters confidence to turn the ball over to them when the game is on the line instead of worrying whether or not the lead would hold. 



San Francisco Giants – .261 average

San Diego Padres – .250 average

Analysis: There’s no secret when it comes to the struggles of the San Diego Padres as far as scoring runs. Sometimes, pitchers can hold an opposing team to a single run and end up losing the game 1-0. General manager Jed Hoyer is hoping that the addition of both Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick will help some of those issues and give their pitchers more runs to work with.

Outside of those two, the Padres have been getting better than expected production from Jerry Hairston Jr. and as expected production from Adrian Gonzalez. However, having David Eckstein out of the lineup for an extended period has definitely hurt the team. They are hoping to have him back by this weekend.

As for the Giants, they have become a better offensive team but still lack that one big bat that general manager Brian Sabean really wanted. They attempted to acquire Adam Dunn from Washington as well as Corey Hart from Milwaukee but were unable to get a deal done for either player.

What they did get came from inside their own system. After trading away catcher Benji Molina, it gave them the opportunity to call up Buster Posey who has since surprised even the Giants with his performance. Posey played in just seven games for San Francisco in 2009, hitting .118 and striking out four times in 17 at bats. This season however, something must have clicked because the young catcher is hitting .345 with eight home runs and 42 runs batted in.


Padres will take the series if…

They can score early on the Giants’ starters. The longer they go, the stronger they seem to get. Get to their pitchers early and get into their bullpen.

They can go into the late innings with the lead and hand it to their bullpen.

Giants will take the series if…

They are patient and take pitches. The Padre pitchers will attempt to get ahead and early but wait them out and they will make a mistake.

Their pitchers can keep Ryan Ludwick from becoming a factor. His bat has started to heat up and that’s the last thing they want to see.

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